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Posted at: Mar 20, 2016, 1:38 AM; last updated: Mar 20, 2016, 1:38 AM (IST)

VP provokes editors: ‘24X7 agitation’ putting pressures

VP provokes editors: ‘24X7 agitation’ putting pressures
Vice-President Hamid Ansari (C) with senior editors HK Dua (2R) and S Nehal Singh (2L); Rajya Sabha Television Editor-in-Chief and CEO Gurdeep Sappal (R); and Rajya Sabha Secretary Dr DB Singh (L) at a seminar in New Delhi on Saturday. Manas Ranjan Bhui

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 19

Top editors today engaged in an eclectic dialogue on the ills of Indian journalism after Vice-President Hamid Ansari listed their challenges in the times of “24X7 agitation of television news channels”.

Addressing a seminar on the “Role of Editors in Today’s Media”, a Rajya Sabha TV initiative, Ansari lamented the decline of media ethics, recalling recent instances of some TV channels airing concocted content at the peak of the JNU sedition row. “Recent experience has shown how erroneous reports exacerbate social and communal divides. There have been cases when news groups have aired content — whose veracity was doubtful — with disastrous effect. While such content may in the short run increase visibility or serve preferred political patronage, it eventually detracts from the credibility of the Press,” the Vice-President said, urging participating editors to withstand the pressures of breaking news in the interest of “accurate, impartial and fair reporting”.

In a quick dissection of modern day journalistic practice, Ansari regretted the absence of editorial courage, saying a political editor recently spoke of credibility being treated as a commodity by media houses. “It has to be admitted regrettably that examples of editorial daring and ethical standards are few and far between,” said the Vice-President after senior editors S Nihal Singh and HK Dua reminisced about the glorious past of Indian journalism when editors were truly free from pressures.

The conversation lasted through the afternoon with Harish Khare, Editor-in-Chief of The Tribune Group, moderating a frenzied discussion on the ailments of media houses and means for their redemption. He set the tone for the debate, terming the notions of an independent editor “romantic” and saying that in reality, independent editors are an endangered species.

“An independent editor is an inconvenient animal in terms of the three relationships he has — with the government, the society and within his own organisation. Also, an independent editor doesn’t essentially mean an authoritative personality. Independence lies in making the news organisation democratic. If a newspaper is not an egalitarian institution, it is just a grand pamphlet sheet,” Khare said, describing the “call of fairness” as the toughest call for editors to take.

Media adviser to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Khare called the “reader the king”, stressing the importance of distancing oneself from the powers-that-be. “I’m often asked if I miss Delhi having shifted to Chandigarh. I say no because I have no desire to know what the NSA or a minister is thinking about my writing,” he said.

As conversations oscillated between despair and hope, some participants asked very tough questions. Om Thanvi (formerly with Jansatta) and Krishna Prasad (Outlook) argued for Caesar’s wife to be above suspicion, saying editors’ integrity was the moot question to be addressed. Vinod Sharma (Hindustan Times) rued the end of wage board while Paranjoy Thakurta (Economic and Political Weekly) called for journalism to be purged of rogue elements.

A recurrent sense was one of disappointment and it was often left to top editors to change the gear back to hope. So, at one time, Khare asked for “letting bygones be bygones”, while Alok Mehta called for celebrating the many regional editors who tell the truth despite odds. End of day, everyone, including the organiser — Gurdeep Sappal, CEO of RS TV, agreed that stemming the rot of journalism was an exercise every editor needed to initiate at his own level.

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